previous next

Herophĭlus

Ἡρόφιλος). A celebrated physician, a native of Chalcedon, of the family of the Asclepiades, and a disciple of Praxagoras. Herophilus lived under Ptolemy Soter, and was contemporary with the philosopher Diodorus, and the celebrated physician Erasistratus, with whose name his own is commonly associated in the history of anatomical science. As a physician, Herophilus is mentioned with praise by both the ancient and the early modern writers. Galen says that he carried anatomy to the highest degree of perfection. With such zeal, indeed, did Herophilus pursue this science, that he is said to have dissected 700 subjects, and it was against him and Erasistratus that the charge was first made of having frequently opened living criminals that they might discover the secret springs of life (Celsus, Praef.). From the peculiar advantages which the school of Alexandria presented by this authorized dissection of the human body, it gained, and for many centuries preserved, the first reputation for medical education, so that Ammianus Marcellinus, who lived about 650 years after its establishment, says that it was sufficient to secure credit to any physician if he could say that he had studied at Alexandria (Amm. Marc. xxii. 16). Herophilus made great discoveries in anatomy, and Fallopius calls him “the evangelist of anatomists.” He is to be regarded as the inventor of pathological anatomy, having been the first that thought of opening the bodies of men after death in order to ascertain the nature of the malady which had caused their dissolution. His principal discoveries have reference to the nervous system, which he acknowledged as the seat of the sensations. The description which Herophilus gave of the brain itself was far superior to those of previous authors. He also noticed the lacteals, though he was not aware of their use. He pointed out that the first division of the intestinal canal is never more than the breadth of twelve fingers in length, and from this fact proposed for it a name (δωδεκαδακτύλη ἔκφυσις), the Latin form of which (duodenum) is still applied to it. He described with great exactness the organ of sight, and gave to its various membranes the names which have still, in a great measure, remained to them. He operated on the cataract by extracting the crystalline humour. Herophilus was the first, also, that had correct notions respecting the pulse, of which his master, Praxagoras, had taught him some of the value as a means of discriminating diseases (Galen, De Diff. Puls. ii. p. 24; Pliny , Pliny H. N. xi. 37Pliny H. N., xxix. 1). It was he who first showed that paralysis is an affection of the nervous system. His commentary on Hippocrates still exists. All his other works are lost. See Marx, De Herophili Vita (Göttingen, 1840); Berdoe, Origin and Growth of the Healing Art (London, 1893); and the articles Chirurgia; Medicina.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: